Cannot trouble the walker’s mind.
In a spontaneous attack of inspiration, this cheeky verse has come to my mind. Why? Both, behind me and above the distant mountains in Rannoch Moor ahead of me dark rain clouds were hanging in the sky. I made the best of this bleak prospect and came up with this little verse. But I was lucky for most of the day as I was spared from more massive doses of the liquid sun until very much later. I wore my rain jacket nonetheless because it was windy and chilly.
Morale was great. I didn’t mind the almost 200m ascent in the beginning because I had quite a few photo breaks anyway. After that climb, the West Highland Way wasn’t much of a challenge regarding climbs or terrain anymore, so that I could crack on joyfully. The rain clouds were held at bay by the mountains, both close and farther away. Only now and then the wind blew a few drops over to me.
The West Highland Way took me across the A82 towards Black Rock Cottage where turned left leaving the Glencoe Mountain Resort behind. It would then take me around the slopes of Meall a’ Bhùiridh crossing several burns that came down from the mountain and then southwards towards Rannoch Moor. Before I cracked on, I turned around and took a long last look at the majestic mountains of Glen Coe.
Sound of Silence
Soon I lost contact with the road, both audibly and visually. And so, whenever I stopped and listened I could hear the indefinitely peaceful sound of complete and utter silence, only adorned by the occasional sound of a single bird flying by, the soft wind or the silent murmuring of a small burn coming down from the mountain. The peacefulness of silence is contagious and soon enough utterly fulfilling and pervasive – an experience and sensation of which I think that many city slickers miss/lack and that would be so pleasant and beneficial for them in the hectic race of everyday life.
Where exactly Rannoch Moor began I cannot tell. I guess that I was already there when the two British gentlemen sat down on that huge rock that I had chosen from afar as a suitable place to take some landscape shots with my 300mm zoom lens. Changing lenses is so much more convenient when you don’t need to crouch down for them. So, I unceremoniously joined them and heaved my backpack onto the rock right next to them.
“How are you?” – “Great, and you?” – “Are you enjoying your walk?” – “This is a fascinating place, isn’t it?” — Typical conversations among walkers. The two of them (one was called John) were heading north on the West Highland Way, whereas I was heading south. So we exchanged some news about our respective ways ahead. “Pretty mountainous and strenuous in the north, you’ll need a lot of stamina there.” – “Easy walking in the south for the next two days, but then when you reach Loch Lomond, it is going to get tough again. Strenuous in a different way.”
I opened my backpack and unpacked my 300mm lens. “Oh, you are a photographer?” – “No, but I pretend to be one from time to time.” Laughter and more walker’s small talk.
Between talking and drinking, having a snack and changing the lens I made another new acquaintance: Midges, the great pest of the highlands. In Scotland, they say that if you kill one, a million will come to the funeral (at least so I was told by the Rob Roy Taxi driver). So I quickly applied a good dose of my insect repellent.
Shooting in Rannoch Moor
The beauty of the highlands is that the landscape with the clouds hanging over the mountains is changing continuously and very quickly. Wait a minute or two, and the clouds have moved on creating an entirely new image even though the hills underneath are still the same. So I spent a good deal of time snapping away before I packed my stuff together again and cracked on. “Enjoy your walk.” – “You, too.”
We all knew we would never meet again.
After a few easy miles and some short showers, I reached Bá Bridge. It offered a beautiful angle on River Bá with some sharp rocks in the foreground as it trailed off in the distance towards some mountain draped in clouds.
Bad news and a happy end
Then came the rain. It didn’t come as a slight drizzle or a short shower but with (compared to the previous days) unprecedented vigilance. I quickly learned the difference between water-repellent and waterproof clothing. My pants were definitely not waterproof. My jacket was, fortunately. The rest of this days walk was not exactly pleasant as my pants were thoroughly soaked. So I was quite happy when I reached this days destination, Inveroran Hotel. This hotel is situated completely remote on the West Highland Way next to the beautiful Loch Tulla. The rain had stopped again, and the sun had come out.
In the hotel, some bad surprises were already waiting for me.
- My suitcase hadn’t arrived yet, in other words: I didn’t have clothes to change and had to sit in my room in my wet stuff.
- The heating in the room couldn’t be turned on. When I asked I was told that it would turn on automatically in the evening and in the morning hours. Given my unfortunate situation, I was promised a “1-hour boost” upon which the heating changed from ice cold to lukewarm. Well…
- It wasn’t an en-suite room, so I had to share toilet and shower with some people from another room. I didn’t know yet that this would prove to be no hassle at all, so for now, this was quite a blow to my morale.
- No WIFI and no mobile connectivity whatsoever. I was stranded literally in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t even call my folks at home and tell them I was okay. At least I didn’t have to freeze anymore because my suitcase had finally arrived.
West Highland Way travelogue – what’s next?
In the next part of my West Highland Way travelogue I meet the notorious monster of Loch Tulla, find the best en-suite room on my whole trip and have the best fish&chips in the UK (according to Stuart Davidson). Stay tuned…